I'm taking a world religions course. This isn't in an attempt to see if I can detach my retinas via eye-rolling but in a sincere effort to know the opposition. When someone asks how I can say no religion works for me I want to be able to give an answer.

I still live in Texas though, so every single religion touched upon is compared to Xtianity. The class is 90% Xtian, there are 3 atheists and a Buddhist, but the rest all smugly remark on the folly of n religion to their own. It's irritating.

Day 2 of the class was the worst though. After insisting that atheism was a religion the professor proceeded to attack the tendency for the non-religious to defend our faithlessness. Then that girl (Let's call her Virginia) said she thought it was stupid that we announce we do not believe in gods. Virginia said we should keep it to ourselves, after all, as adults we don't believe in Santa, but we don't go about declaring it constantly.

Except... that isn't really true at all. Do you remember when you stopped believing in Santa? You told your friends, or maybe one of your friends told you, and suddenly the truth swept over the playground. Some kids would argue that their parents insist that Santa was real, while the whistle-blowers would be chastised for revealing the truth before the other kids were ready to know it. Sometimes there was the threat of disbelief equaling a gift-less winter. Parents would try for another holiday of innocence with movies and stories that reinforce the obvious existence of the Jolly Watcher. Yes Virginia...

Fast-forward a year later and the fact was that lack of Santa-faith didn't end the songs gifts or family gatherings eased the reality. No Santa, but the holidays were still good.

The playground is a bigger place for us now, but the reaction is still the same. Anger, denial, accusations, threats of gift denial. No Virginia... 

Why are we compelled to tell others that we don't believe? What are we hoping to gain by wearing our faithlessness where others can see it?

For me, it's a throwback to those playground days. No, someone isn't watching every thing we do, but there is still good, there are still songs and happiness but those should be enjoyed without fear. The rewards and punishments come from real things, either our parents or civil authority or ourselves...but not the imaginary.

I share because I believe that the truth is good, it is freedom, it is a gift without a judge.

Views: 1436

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on September 28, 2013 at 10:33am

Hi Carol,

If I kept meeting adults that continually insisted that Santa was real and then kept telling me that I was stupid not to believe them, I would let them know as often as I deemed necessary that I did not believe in Santa.

When adults keep insisting that their God is real then I will let them know I don’t believe in their God.

The problem for me is not that so much peoples statement of believe in gods. What bugs me is their claim to have “knowledge” that is only available to them. They claim to know the Truth to all the bigger questions of life and death that we as intelligent beings should be seeking answers to. It is the dismissal of “my answers” without giving them any consideration that annoys me. I have taken the time and made the effort to understand Evolution. I hold it to be true and that we are in fact an evolved species.  It has been proven. Yet Theists will dismissal this knowledge and claim not to believe it even though Evolution is not a matter of belief but one of understanding.

I would ask them to explain why there are Atheists when it comes to Thor or Zeus.

I would give the Professor a lesson on what exactly Atheism is. He must have earned the title in some theological college because his statement about Atheism being a religion should disqualify him from hosting the class.

Comment by Physeter on September 28, 2013 at 1:05pm

Christians willingly blind themselves to what atheists are really like, either through simple ignorance or by actively squeezing their eyes shut and embracing lies. It makes them feel better about themselves when they 'know' that anyone who disagrees is either delusional or serving Satan.

The reason atheists speak up is because Christianity is an active missionary religion, not a passive one. Christians assert that to be good, one must believe in their god, and they take every opportunity to try to convince people to convert. If atheists don't stand up for themselves, more and more people are led to believe Christianity really is the only way to live.

Comment by Dr. Bob on September 28, 2013 at 1:32pm

What bugs me is their claim to have “knowledge” that is only available to them. They claim to know the Truth to all the bigger questions of life and death that we as intelligent beings should be seeking answers to. It is the dismissal of “my answers” without giving them any consideration that annoys me.

I agree that could be annoying if you allowed it to be.  I'm sure many religious feel the same about  the atheists who find a need to be evangelical as well. 

@Carol, as an academic myself (and a theist), I confess that I am a bit annoyed by your professor's approach, assuming that you are perceiving it correctly.  I suppose a lot depends on definitions, though.  If we take "religion" as a epistemological worldview, which is probably fairly close to my own way of thinking, then several flavors of atheism might honestly be called "religions". 

Most atheists here and elsewhere tend to define both religion and atheism more narrowly.  So perhaps what you are experiencing is really a professor taking an expansive view of religion-as-worldview, where you are taking a narrow view of religion-as-fundamental-church?

That would explain the professor's argument.  If you spend time and effort trying to convince others to change their worldview and adopt yours because it's better - if you go to the playground to evangelize the non-existence of Santa Claus on the grounds that you know best - then you are behaving like a faithful religious.  You are trying to convince others to adopt your epistemological worldview.   That's not truly a- anything.  It matters to you. You are behaving like an evangelist in mission territory.

Having followed many of the arguments here at ThinkAtheist and participated in a few, I have a hard time following things because of narrow definitions.  Sometimes I feel that this community defines religion narrowly, because a narrow and somewhat caricatured view of religion might fit their own personal experience and is easier to argue with, and defines atheism narrowly because it's easier to defend.  Mostly I just shake my head and wonder at what an odd view of religion atheists have and then agree with them.  I wouldn't believe in that either, if that's what I thought religion really was. 

I don't know if that helps.  I guess I'd say give your professor a chance; he might be starting with a much broader definition of religion than you are.  As for your classmates, sometimes it's good to argue and test ideas, and sometimes it's good to share perspectives as friends.  You'll have to figure out which works for you right now.  Good luck with it.

Comment by Carol Foley on September 28, 2013 at 2:22pm

Dr. Bob,

He said "Atheism is a religion."

Now as to views on religion and whether or not we give them a fair shake here at thinkatheist, I cannot speak for us all. I can say that when it comes down to the basics of most religions we see no evidence of a deity and extrapolating from that point many of us see no point in appointing importance to the religions that house them.

Also yes, atheism matters to us enough for us to gather together here and enough for us to be open and out-spoken about it, but to call it evangelizing, I think, is incorrect. We are not saying we know the way to salvation, we are not saying we have the de facto  world view on the correct morality.

We are saying that we do not accept the notion of the all-being god. When we openly oppose a religion it isn't because we love to bully the adherents it is because we view what we oppose as harmful to the populace. If you need proof of that, simply look at the religions most often opposed on this website. These are religions that enforce homophobia, patriarchal oppression, scientific ignorance and racial prejudice.  These practices are what are in the scriptures of these religions, choosing to omit them for some new age approach doesn't change the fact that it is there. To claim that a god's cruelty is allegory in one breath and singing his praises in another breath is not admirable.

Also, participation in a watered down form of the religion often acts as the gateway to fundamentalism. One day someone may say that their god loves gays, and the next they will change their tune because the books do say differently. We aren't operating on a limited world-view of religions we are applying what we have seen happen time and time again. Adaptation to a modern age does not often stand the test of time. So we suggest abandoning the books altogether and instead studying your moral world-view for what it is. Something personal.

Comment by Pope Beanie on September 28, 2013 at 2:44pm

Peer pressure has driven humanity this far, for better and for worse.

It magnifies both cooperation, and competition.

Now sprinkle it with rhythm and rhyme.

And simmer with hope.

I'm shrinking...



Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on September 28, 2013 at 4:14pm

Reg - What bugs me is their claim to have “knowledge” that is only available to them. They claim to know the Truth to all the bigger questions of life and death that we as intelligent beings should be seeking answers to. It is the dismissal of “my answers” without giving them any consideration that annoys me.

Bob - “I agree that could be annoying if you allowed it to be.  I'm sure many religious feel the same about the atheists who find a need to be evangelical as well.”

Yes Bob – if I allowed it to be. However I have no choice in the matter. Theists claim to have “divine knowledge”.  All Christians and Muslims do. Their entire faith is based on the “knowledge” that their god created the Universe and all within in. This also includes claiming that their God, i.e. your God Bob, created humans in the “form” we are in today. These same believers will then tell me to my face that I lack humility for not believing what they believe. They will and do tell me that I am closed minded and place too much “faith” in Science. Not believing in your God is not like religion. You are an Atheist when it comes to all other described gods known to man. However as the adage goes “Atheism is a religion just like not collecting stamps is a hobby”. Maybe annoying is not the right word. It is certainly frustrating listening to Theists that assume to “know” with absolute certainty “the big answers” and yet have little or no grasp of other “world views”.

Once more Bob, as a man of Science, can you offer me any shred of evidence that you have for the existence of your god? I still maintain you have none. Please don’t mention Euclidean geometry if you reply ;-)

Comment by Ward Cressin on September 28, 2013 at 4:38pm

@Dr. Bob

A worldview is not a religion. I am not a science-fictionist or a horrorist or ...

re·li·gion   [ri-lij-uhn]  noun 

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

 - from Dictionary dot com

That is the meaning I use. That is the meaning I see (most of) the other atheists here using. If you don't see that then your perception is in error.

When you widen the "definition" of religion to any worldview then you have rendered the meaning worthless. Or, more cynically, you are deliberately altering definitions to move the goal posts since you don't know how to successfully ague your point honestly.

So, do you see your mistake? Or is this misdefinition on your part deliberate?

Comment by Pope Beanie on September 28, 2013 at 5:09pm

I see two separate issues here.

The TX Prof says atheism is a religion. Then he should be able to explain in a few sentences or less, how that's true according to textbook definitions.

The girl complaining about atheists speaking up. Santa Claus isn't a culturally enforced norm for adults, as is religion, and specifically (in this TX class) as is Christianity. Any complaint about someone speaking against the cultural norm is clearly, shall we say, intolerant?

I'm crossing my fingers that Texans will reverse their opinion on the veracity of Ted Cruz types of intolerance and obstruction. I don't like to stereotype, but it really seems at the moment that TX is the current hornet's nest of intolerance, in spite of calling themselves "Christian".

Comment by Carol Foley on September 28, 2013 at 6:28pm

I think the atheist says- "I need to learn the truth."

Comment by James Cox on September 28, 2013 at 6:30pm

Several years ago I told most of my family that I was rather sick of xmas and would not celebrate it any further. If they want to get together for dinner, that is ok, but I would rather not receive any gifts!

My mother still gives gifts, as well as my brother, but atleast dinner is still an OK! event.

I would rather gift folks over the year, and not compress it to a few hours/days. This seems more humane!

I have suggested that we celebrate someone else for a holiday, maybe the Turkey! 


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